Saturday, July 2, 2016

Movie Review // The Black Shield of Falworth (1954) with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh

Howard Pyle’s Men of Iron has always ranked high on my favorites list and I was stunned a few years ago to find out there had been a film adapted from it in the 50’s -- starring none other than Janet Leigh (one of my favorite actresses) as the hero’s love interest!

And as I was writing this, I realized this film actually lends itself to a fun scene-by-scene encapsulation as well so maybe that’ll come along someday, too. ;) Meanwhile, enjoy!

(Also note: I used a varied collection of screenshots for this, so some are better than others. :P As I recall, the quality of the film itself -- at least the digital version -- is quite excellent.)

The following official summary isn’t faultless, but since it’s a little known film I thought it’d be helpful:

“In The Black Shield of Falworth, Tony Curtis woos his real-life bride Janet Leigh, while defending the British throne in a swashbucking tale filled with jousts, jests and medieval heroics. The time is England in the reign of King Henry IV. Myles (Curtis) is a headstrong, handsome peasant determined to learn the name of his slain father and discover his true heritage. His fiery ambition and swift sword lead him to the majestic Mackworth Castle. There he must vie for both knighthood as well as the hand of the fair Lady Anne (Leigh), but her love is claimed by the evil, conniving Sir Walter Blount. All the while the English throne is being challenged to the death - from sinister forces within. With its remarkable supporting cast and stunning set design, this is truly an epic tale of which legends are made!”

I admit I had to get used to Tony Curtis a little in the role of Myles, but by the end I think it’s pretty near impossible not to be desperately rooting for him as he finally locks grips with his deadly enemy.

The supporting cast is all VERY well played.

They take a few plot liberties, but I was honestly amazed at how close they stuck to the original story line. We bought the digital copy at one point and, sadly (due to unrelated computer issues), we haven’t been able to watch it for a while, but indeed, from what I remember, the tweaks in the plot aren’t arbitrary and seemed quite reasonable, condensing and tying things a little tighter for screen purposes.

It’s full-fledged classic medieval drama with sparks of humor here and there. And, seeming at first lighthearted, it’s yet totally weighty with the gravity of serious conflict. 

A resentful hothead, flailing for his place in the world -- uncertain of friends and enemies, puzzled and only seeing the knotted underside of the threads of life and not the full tapestry -- Myles comes one day to find himself at the very center of a huge web of political intrigue.

(Myles and Gascoyne's friendship is so utterly fun and delightful.)

For Black Shield is really a coming of age story. The story of how the headstrong boy of the beginning is taken in hand and given a purpose, a weighty calling.

Because at the last, all that political intrigue tightens to a literal noose. When all the pieces are in place and the conflict is laid out, the stakes are huge and the pressure comes crashing down on our hero… our hero who has been carefully pruned and tempered to be able to bear the crushing weight of expectations and responsibility.

There are some hard questions asked. 

And in the end, it’s about loyalty. And gratitude. 

(Also, we have to have one quick specific note on the ladies… They’re both GREAT. *spoilers* Loyal and daring, in the end, while remaining perfect and utter ladies, they yet manage to pull off an ingenious rescue operation, ultimately saving the day. ;))

So yes, I know I condensed a lot about the plot, etc., but as you can probably guess, it ends with a duel to the death between our hero and his arch-nemesis, a duel which ultimately explodes into a raging full on battle scene.

And…. since I’m trying not to give any more spoilers at the moment, I’ll just set your mind at rest by saying that, yes, it does indeed have a most happy and triumphant ending! ;D

Tell me! Have you read Men of Iron or seen Black Shield?
What do you think?

My fifth and final review for Miss Laurie's Period Drama Challenge 2016!

Movie Review // Love Comes Softly with Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff (2003)

Wow, this is funny. Two movies I chose to review this close together both released in 2003! Funny quirk indeed…

Now I’ve not seen much of the rest of this series (though I read the books a LOT at one point in my life, so when it comes to script inaccuracies I feel Quite Well Informed), but I have seen and researched enough to laugh heartily at certain gently-poking-fun-blog-posts that pop up from time to time. 

But, to take a step back, I really think this one is good as a standalone in its own right and tends not to get its full due sometimes.

Now I don’t agree with all the theology. And yes, the story’s also simple and straightforward, but you know what?? It’s really quite fairly realistic. Sometimes real life isn’t always all that complicated. And sometimes it’s both super hard and very sweet.

The soundtrack -- with its refrain of Come Thou Fount – is beautiful. 

Let’s see… Hmmm. What else? Oh yes. The costuming isn’t completely period, but it’s well done and Marty’s outfits are very pretty. (And I love how they do her hair! I’ve imitated her braided updo multiple times and it’s become one of my quick Sunday standby’s. ;))

And… I just looked it up and I knew it was close, but after I get married I’m actually going to be living within easy driving distance of where this was filmed! How incredible is that?!? Hem. All such exciting rabbit trails aside, as I was getting around to saying, I love the landscape in this! Mountains and dry rolling hills and wind and wide running spaces…. You all know I’m a western loving girl. ;)

So in conclusion, I definitely love this story. A good, clean, simple (also honestly thought provoking at times) dose of sweet romance! 

How about you?

Reviewed for Miss Laurie’s Period Drama Challenge 2016.
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